So I'm a Type A kind of person. And I have this teeny tiny problem with perfectionism sometimes. Occasionally, I get a bit tightfisted, a bit controlling, with my work and my schedule.
When I started writing fiction full time, I thought I was going to lose my mind.
Writing novels--with all their mess, their sprawling and tangled and totally non-linear process--well, it didn't so much work with my personality.
You guys. This is the book I would hand out to each and every writer I meet, if I could.
I'd love to just have a stack, ready to go, and whenever anyone says, "Oh, hey, I'm interested in writing," or "I know someone who likes to write," I'd whip out a copy and say Here! Take this! Read it! IT'S YOUR PARACHUTE!
I'd probably get a little overexcited. Can you tell?
Because when I started writing, I could find plenty of writing books that talked about aspects of craft (how to plot! let's write dialogue! hone your description skills!), and publication (you need an agent! here's how to market! let's write a query!).
What I didn't find was a book on Not Going Crazy, which was the thing I needed the most.
Fortunately, I was working as an editorial intern when I realized I wanted to write full time. And my kind boss (who probably knew my quirks better than I did at that point--my white knuckles gave me away) handed me a copy of this book.
These pages are marked up with ink of every color. Some chapters are underlined in near-entirety. I've done most of the exercises three or four times. And every time I reread it, I find sentences that hit me fresh. Ideas and helpful ways of thinking that, when I apply them, change everything for the better.
Heather Sellers talks about what your life needs to look like so that your writing gets done. But she isn't a hysterical, strict, mean-spirited person, sucking the fun and the imagination out of everything. Nope. Her view of the writing life is a very generous, happy, and passionate approach.
The chapters are short and quick to read, so you'll zip right through. (And if you're in a major writing slump, my best advice is: Binge-read this book. Go straight through it. You'll be much better on the other side.)
She talks about anxiety, how to deal with other people's attitudes toward your writing, what kinds of tools you need. She talks about when writing isn't for you, and what to do when you're frustrated about writing. She talks about how to deal with your moods.
Because writers have some moods.
She'll tell you how to find your best material for your work, how to discover what you already know. She'll tell you what your apprenticeship in writing will look like, how long it will take, and why that's okay.
She talks about all kinds of things that kept me writing when I wanted to stop.
Best of all, she helped me see that if I didn't have a healthy writing life, with a healthy writer's heart, then all the books on craft and marketing wouldn't make any difference at all.
If the blank page scares you too much, then who cares about dialogue practice? Who needs an agent?
So. That's my writing challenge to you, friends. Snag a copy of this book, at a library, at a bookstore. Check it out, and then please do tell me what you think of it! I have a hunch that it will be a game changer for you too.